I kind of had quiet hopes for this film. If nothing else it had Scott Adkins and Robert Knepper, I knew they’d go to town regardless of what was going on. As opposed to, say, Jean Claude Van Damme showing up for 13 interspersed minutes looking sour as fuck, dejected and like he hates himself and all of us. A lot of people are going to talk about Hard Target 2 being a cheap movie, suggesting that this is where it fails. But the problem has nothing to do with money (mostly), it’s a problem of downright terrible screenwriting. This movie and the franchise as a whole are destroyed by the second half, it’s woeful.
The film is called Hard Target 2, but shares no relation to the original. If you recall, the first movie had a band of ‘sportsmen’ hunting bums and miscreants across New Orleans, the latter would be given money for their time. If they could successfully flee gun-toting killers on foot with the money, they could keep it. Lance Henriksen was the leader of the hunt in the first movie, taking on more than he could chew with Jean Claude Van Damme. Here, Robert Knepper fills that role as Aldrich, with Scott Adkins the hard target, playing Wes Baylor.
Baylor is a cage fighter and a pretty good one at that. But to pursue his dreams he must eliminate his best friend in a competitive fighting match, it’s all good spirited until Baylor kills his pal accidentally in their battle. Now near soulless, he’s then reduced to fighting underground, this is where Aldrich spots his latest prey. Aldrich flies Baylor to South-East Asia, tricking him into being hunted in a Myanmar jungle near the border. If he can cross the border, he can keep his new money. But Aldrich and his crew of killers are in pursuit.
This film starts out reasonably well, all things considered. The fight sequences are pretty decent; well lit, lucid editing. If you have an actor like Adkins at your disposal and you chop up his fighting work in the editing room, you should be drawn and quartered. Actually, some of this opening stuff looks like a million bucks too, such as the fight scene atop a flashy skyscraper (kind of reminds me on the final fight from Blood and Bone, good movie). However these opening promises for a good movie are broken when things head to the jungle.
As Knepper is hunting Adkins, Adkins runs into a local girl and her brother. This is where the ‘hunt’ goes off the rails and suspense is killed. The last thing they should be doing with a movie like this, with limited resources, is hitting the brakes and forcing trashy melodrama on us in the middle of what is supposed to be a tight action/thriller. At 105 minutes, it’s far too long and has too much (badly written) stuff to say. It should have been 85 minutes, with nothing but Knepper, his men and Adkins picking them off. And when a movie like this insists on focusing on plot, you can’t help but notice the glaring holes. Knepper and his team must surely be the most inept hunters ever.
Aside from Adkins’ fight scenes in the opening, I was also hugely disappointing in the action. For example, just like the original movie there are bike chases. In the first, John Woo really made those babies stand out, they sounded great, they were used effectively. Here, the bike chases move along at what looks to be 20mph, with hokey techniques failing to make it look like 80mph like they were intending. This really takes me out of the moment, almost like they’re afraid to damage the bikes. Surely a half competent director would’ve axed it before letting it look this poor? On the upside, Rhona Mitra looks as hot as ever. Man, it’s hard to take your eyes off this woman, until the director insists in putting her in fight scenes that look atrocious.
On Blu-Ray these days, there’s nothing much to say about transfers. We’re near the end of the life cycle of this format (there will be 4k reviews on here starting next month, starting with The Expendables 3). It’s only worth mentioning the quality of a Blu-Ray transfer if it’s truly exceptional or truly dire. Hard Target 2 is simply good, like 90% of other releases. Although the CGI blood is a little too good… does that make sense? Insomuch as it looks unnatural, even more than usual for these types of movies.
There are about 11 minutes of deleted scenes here and a handful of behind the scenes stuff, YouTube-sized mini clips. The film also has Scott Adkins, Robert Knepper and director Roel Reine pulling commentary duties and while they’re enthusiastic about the movie and want it to live up to potential, it doesn’t mean that it has. In the end, I can’t think that anyone but the most ardent Scott Adkins fan would find interest in any of this.